Extremely Rare 1903 Boston Americans (vs. Pittsburgh Pirates) World Series Game 1 Program

Sold For: $108,000
Year: 1903
Auction: 2021 Fall
Lot #: 3
Auction: Featured
Extremely rare fold-over program for the first game of the 1903 World Series between the Boston Americans and Pittsburgh Pirates held on October 1st at Boston's Huntington Grounds. This is one of the rarest and most historically significant baseball pieces in the entire world of collecting. The 1903 World Series program is one of the few printed memorabilia items with a significance equivalent to that of a T206 Wagner to the world of baseball cards. This is an item of monumental importance to the history of the game and universally revered as one of the pinnacle items of all historic baseball memorabilia. It is also extremely rare (ten times as rare as a T206 Wagner). Very few 1903 World Series programs exist (less than ten), and the fact that the offered example was issued for Game 1 and is also scored further distinguish it as one of the most desirable examples extant. To the best of our knowledge, this is one of only two known 1903 programs dating from the historic first game of the Series. Because 1903 World Series programs are so rare, few collectors would have any way to know this: In addition to being able to date the game of the program by its scoring (if scored, which is ideal), the date of the game intended for its use is preprinted on the interior. This program is positively for the first game of the very first World Series! All of the few surviving 1903 World Series programs are among the baseball-collecting world's greatest treasures and are the most important of all World Series programs, but a program that was printed specifically for use and scored for the very first game is the ideal. We are very familiar with this particular program as this is the second time we have had the privilege of offering it. This program originally appeared as Lot 1227 in REA's Spring 2010 auction (realizing $94,000).

The cover features portrait images of each team's respective manager, Jimmy Collins for Boston and Fred Clarke for Pittsburgh, as well as that of the famed leader of Boston's Royal Rooters, Mike "Nuff Said" McCreevy, which is used in conjunction with an advertisement for his tavern, 3rd Base. The preprinted text along the base of the cover identifies it as a "souvenir card of the World's Championship Games - Boston vs. Pittsburg [sic]." The date of the game "Thursday, October 1, 1903" is preprinted on the interior. The preprinted lineups for each club include Collins, Young, Stahl, Parent, Dougherty, and Freeman for Boston, and Wagner, Clarke, Leach, Phillippe, and Beaumont for Pittsburgh. Game 1 featured what many expected to be a duel between Boston ace Cy Young, winner of a league-leading twenty-eight games, and twenty-four-game winner Deacon Phillippe. Unfortunately for Boston fans, Young was roughed up for four runs in the first and later served up the first home run in World Series history, to Jimmy Sebring in the seventh, in the Americans' 7-3 loss. All of the action from the game, including Sebring's home run, is duly recorded in pencil. Young later avenged his opening-game loss by defeating Pittsburgh in Games 7 and 10, helping Boston upset the Pirates. The offered program, issued and fully scored for Game 1 of the 1903 World Series, may very well be the most significant of the few surviving examples.

The World Series was born when Barney Dreyfuss and Henry Killilea, the respective owners of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox, each agreed in August to match their first-place clubs in a best-of-nine postseason series that fall to determine what they declared to be the "World's Championship." (The 1903 World Series was the first postseason series between inter-league champions since 1890, when the National League champion Brooklyn Bridegrooms met the American Association champion Louisville Cyclones.) Fan interest in such postseason championships had waned during the 1890s, but the revival staged by Boston and Pittsburgh was well received, as evidenced by the 16,242 fans who showed up to watch Game 1. In total, nearly 100,000 fans poured through the turnstiles to witness the first World Series in modern history. That patronage, with the brief exception of John McGraw's obstinate refusal to play in 1904, all but ensured that the World Series would remain the institution it is today. One of the most curious sidenotes to the 1903 World Series that bears mentioning concerns the players' share of the profits. Boston players each received $1,182, and Pittsburgh players received $1,316.25. The reason for that anomaly was the generosity of Dreyfuss, who turned over his share of the gate receipts to his players. It was the first and only time in World Series history that the losers' shares exceeded those of the winning players.

This program (5-1/2 x 8-1/8 inches), which is in apparent Excellent to Mint condition, has benefited from professional restoration to a number of flaws. Originally the program's front cover displayed at least three small horizontal tears extending from the right border, which were repaired by a piece of clear tape. There was a small corner chip to the front cover in the upper right and a corresponding corner chip on the rear cover in the upper left. Additionally, there was a partial separation along the spine, primarily along the top half. During the restoration process, all of the front-cover tears were repaired, and the tape was removed. The corner chips on each cover were also rebuilt, and the areas of spine separation were both reattached and reinforced. It should be noted that all of this work was done to the highest professional standards, and from the naked eye none of the former defects can be observed. The only visible flaw to the program at present is a slight uneven fold when it is closed. (Please note: we have posted photos of the program in its original state on our website so that bidders can see for themselves the nature of the restorative work.) We might further add that none of the restoration has impinged upon the integrity of the piece, and all of the work is similar to what is seen on other programs of this age and construction. The restoration has served only to return this piece to its former grandeur and enhance its display value. This is one of the most historically important pieces in the entire hobby, and one that would be a significant addition to any serious baseball or World Series program collection.   Reserve $25,000.
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